The Story of The Horse, America Fell In Love With
By: Dave Cole
In the latter half of the Depression, Seabiscuit,
an undersized and crooked-legged horse, had become a
household word in America.
He was adored by fans, his appearances breaking attendance
records at nearly every major racetrack. There was even
a special cross-country train named "Seabiscuit Limited"
that shuttled fans to his races.
His four-year rise in the world of racing was one of
the most notable and widely followed struggles in sports
Back in the 1930's the realities of the Great Depression
had driven deep into most men's hearts. At the time the
average American worker was earning about $500 a year.
At least those who were fortunate to find work.
Times were hard, there was little to cheer about.
Adolph Hitler was in the news and everyone knew
trouble was brewing in the world.
Ten years of hardship had just passed, the hardest
economic times in our history. Americans needed something.....
something that they could relate to, something that they
could find hope in.....something that would give
Encouragement....hope.....faith, that the little guy
could pull out of this depression and make a go of it,
that men who were formerly down and depressed could
come from behind and make a decent life for himself
and his family.
America found it's hero in a rather unique form.
A horse named Seabiscuit.
He had short legs, asymmetrical knees that didn't
quite straighten all the way giving him a crouching
stance and an odd, inefficient "eggbeater" gait
that one writer likened to a duck waddle.
No one ever thought Seabiscuit would amount to much,
his career had been noteworthy only in its appalling
Seabiscuit was a horse that no one really wanted.
Yet, he had something inside of him that was inherited
from his grandfather, the immortal racehorse,
Man O' War. That something was a tenacity, a bull dog
determination, a spirit of winning.
With that spirit and the determination and patience
of his owner, trainer and jockey, Seabiscuit began
his rise to fame and fortune.
Seabiscuit was something that folks could relate to.
Something that had been given little chance of ever
succeeding, something that had a lot of problems
and adversity to overcome.....Seabiscuit was now
the little guy who came from behind and beat the odds.
Seabiscuit gave people hope. Hope that they too could
come from behind and win in life.
In 1937 Seabiscuit garnered more newspaper column
than Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt, Churchill, or any
other public figure. He had won 10 major events, broken
5 track records and taken in the most winnings of
any race horse that year....yet he was not named
Horse of the Year
Seabiscuit & War Admiral
An eastern black beauty that had won the Triple Crown
named War Admiral was instead, picked as Horse of the Year.
But, Seabsicuit was rapidly becoming the heart throb
of America. His owner, Charles Howard was a worthy
salesman who knew how to "play the press" ...
America soon clamored for a match up.
On November 1, 1938 the two horses went head to head
on a small race track that held just 16,000 seats.
By race time there were 30,000 fans in the stands
and another 10,000 in the infield. The rest of
America virtually shut down to listen to the broadcast.
Even President Roosevelt delayed a press conference
It was no contest. Seabiscuit hit the finish 4 full
lengths in front and had ran the race in near world
The little horse from nowhere, the little guy with
the wobbly gait, the horse nobody wanted, beat War Admiral,
the big strong guy with all the right moves and with
the big money behind him.....Seabiscuit had become the
long shot that captured America's hearts.
By the end of 1938, Seabiscuit had won 33 races,
set 16 track records and equaled another. He was
literally worth his weight in gold, having earned
a world record $437,730, nearly 60 times his purchase
With the looming war in the papers, America now
had something they could relate to, something that
gave them the hope and determination they needed
to understand and know they could survive whatever
would soon come and know that they could come out
of the Great Depression on top and victorious.
After his racing days were over, Seabiscuit spent
his time lounging around the pasture, herding
cattle, and greeting some 50,000 fans who came
to see him.
On May 17, 1947 America lost one of it's heroes.
Seabiscuit had died at only 14 years of age from a
heart attack. He was buried in a secret spot on
Mr. Howard's ranch with only an oak tree planted
over his grave as a memorial.
Trainer: Tom "Silent Tom" Smith
Owners: Charles & Marcela Howard
Jockeys: Red Pollard & George "The Iceman" Woolf
"Horses stay the same from the day they are born until
the day they die... They are only changed by the way
people treat them."
~ "Silent Tom" Smith ~
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